Tuesday 30 December 2008

Just looking

Today we paid our first visit to Liverpool One, the recently opened shopping centre in Liverpool. We chose Liverpool for our post Christmas sales trip because we wanted to go to a John Lewis, which is sadly missing from our local shops. When we first moved up here from Surrey it was some time before we managed a trip to the John Lewis at the Trafford Centre and I was beginning to think that we had moved to the back of beyond, such is the lack of variety and choice offered by the local shops.

The shops at Liverpool One look attractive enough, but even the throngs of sale shoppers could not raise the temperature, from the just above freezing, in Liverpool today. We only go shopping, now, when we really need to buy something. I am no longer the shopaholic that I once was. As I spend most of my time decorating or gardening I do not need a wardrobe full of fancy clothes. Today we were looking for a duvet and pillows. As we approached the bedding department we were asked by at least two assistants if they could help us. Usually when you want help there is not an assistant anywhere in sight and unless I really need help my standard response is that I am just looking. I once said this to a friend who approached me in a shop! Then realised that she was not staff. We knew what we wanted and no salesperson was going to persuade us otherwise. Having secured our purchase of a duvet and four pillows we arranged for them to be taken to the collection point so that we did not need to carry them around with us. We then had a wander around the other shops with the aim of doing some window shopping and I managed to drag my husband into Debenhams and Marks and Spencer to see how they compared to the Chester stores. Shopping, with a bored and reluctant husband in tow, is hard work and if I want to do more than just look I need to shop on my own.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Getting in the festive mood

My work stint finished a week ago and it has taken me all of a week to catch up with things. I have covered for this colleague's pre-Christmas holiday for three or four years a now and I swear that he is taking the holiday later each year which means that I am working nearer to Christmas each year. Uncannily, or maybe it is cannily, he asks me if I can cover for him around June which is long enough away from last Christmas for me to have forgotten how pushed I was the previous year and well before I have started to think about the next Christmas. By the time that I finished work I was exhausted, way behind with my Christmas preparations and not really in the spirit of Christmas.

By Thursday, after a few decent nights' sleep I had managed to finished my present shopping and write my Christmas cards in time to catch the last post. Then with some reluctance on Thursday evening I went out to the Horticultural Society Christmas meeting, which was a buffet plus entertainment from the Chester Operatic Society, who sang a mixture of Christmas carols and Christmas songs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have to admit that I was expecting that an operatic society would sing something more high brow. The two previous Christmas socials I had missed as an indirect result of working, leading me to the conclusion that too much work makes Cheshire Wife a dull girl. So, at last, on Thursday night I came home in the festive spirit.

Since then I have assembled and decorated our tree, which is artificial but drops needles as if it is real. The tree is really for the benefit of the neighbours so that they do not think that we are a couple of sad gits. It is unlikely that anyone will visit us over Christmas. On Christmas Day we will meet the neighbours for a drink at lunch time, in the local pub then after Christmas we shall be making a day trip to Northampton to visit my husband's family. Yet again, the distance between Chester and Northampton is less than the distance between Northampton and Chester. My family are too far away to try to attempt a Christmas get together. The two of us, my husband and I, will enjoy being together as we spend a lot of time apart. We will light a log fire and watch TV or one of the many programmes that we have videoed during the year and not managed to watch. If the weather is suitable we might go out for a walk.

The Christmas tree in the photograph is at the Cheshire Oaks Retail Outlet and is reputedly the biggest tree in the UK. In daylight, apart from the sheer size of it, it is nothing special but when darkness falls it is spectacular.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday 15 December 2008

Question Time

Originally posted Friday May 23, 2008

At the moment I am working more than usual and do not have the time to both post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some posts that I wrote before my blog was read.

Last night the BBC programme Question Time came from Chester and I was in the audience. I had never seen a television programme made, so was interested to see how it was done. The venue was a local school with facilities far better than anything that I remember from my school days. The audience was asked to arrive between 6.00 and 6.30 pm with the recording taking until 9.30 pm. I thought that we were going to be in for a long evening of takes, retakes and cuts but the hour long programme itself was recorded with no breaks from about 8.30 pm. On arrival the ladies' bags were searched and the men were frisked. Then we were offered tea or coffee and biscuits in exchange for writing a question a on a card. At about 6.45 pm a very suave looking David Dimbleby appeared and explained what was expected from the audience. Then at about 7.15 pm we were shepherded into the auditorium and once everybody was seated the floor manager chaired a dummy set using audience members as panellists. This allowed the crew to check that all the microphones and cameras etc were working and everything was correctly set up. While all this is going on the programme editor is sifting through all the questions to choose those that will actually be put to the panel.

Next came the moment that the audience had volunteered to be there for - those who had been selected to put their questions were announced. I was very surprised to find that I had been selected to ask a question. The questioners were asked to stand so that the recording crew could mark where they were in the auditorium then we were taken to a room off the auditorium. Our questions were returned to us so that we knew what we were to ask and we were advised to stay alert as the questions could be asked in any order or may not even be asked at all. By now it was about 8.15 pm and the real panel and chairman arrived. David Dimbleby announced them in the order that they sat around the Question Time table. Tony Hall, Hazel Blears, Francis Maude, Christina Odone and Simon Hughes. Hazel Blears is tiny. She is so small that they had to put a cushion on her chair so that she could see over the table and if we could have seen under the table I bet her feet did not touch the ground. Determined at least not to have a bad hair day she had been to the hairdressers. So recording time had nearly arrived but before it did the panel were asked a 'warm up' question. Then there were a few minor adjustments including powdering of noses and foreheads before the programme was underway.

The panel area was amazingly brightly lit whilst the auditorium was only dimly lit. During the recording an army of sound engineers and camera men dressed in black t-shirts and jeans silently glided around the auditorium and stage. The whole session was all very professional without any hitches. Once recorded we then had to wait a couple of minutes for it to be checked before we were allowed to go. By now it was 9.30 pm - one hour and five minutes before transmission. As we left the programme was being played back in the reception area of the school.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Back to basics

Originally posted March 12, 2008

For the next few weeks I am working more than usual and I know that I shall find it difficult to post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some posts that I wrote before my blog was read.

Last night something woke me up at about 1.40 am. As I lay half asleep, with the bedside light switched on, listening to the wind which, I thought, did not sound as bad as they had forecast, the bedside light flickered and went out. My heart sank and suddenly I was wide awake - the power had gone off. The bulb in the bedside light is one off the new low voltage light bulbs and has only been in use for a few weeks, so it should have a few more years of life in it. I had taken the precaution of taking a torch to bed with me, just in case the power should go off. So I got up and had a prowl around. There were lights on in the distance, but everywhere around was pitch black, as you would probably expect it to be at 1.50 am. In the study, the UPS had kicked in and was bleeping away keeping the computer going for now. I went downstairs to check the fuse box, nothing had tripped - so it was definitely a power cut. There was nothing else to do but to go back to bed and hopefully to sleep. Once back in bed my mind kept going over how awful things had been when gales had left us without power for nearly three days in January last year. There is no gas where we live so we are all electric apart from the oil fired central heating boiler. We had had to manage with candles for light, a log fire plus several layers of clothes for warmth and the generator, of a builder who was doing a small job for us, to boil the kettle.

Eventually, I slept and subsequently woke to a cold and powerless morning. At least the water was still hot, but breakfast was orange juice and cereal - no chance of the full English this morning. Contacting the power company to check that they knew that the power was off and to find out when it would be back on again was another minor trial. Our new fangled electric cordless phones do not work without power and my mobile phone needed charging. Luckily we still have a old corded phone. Then it was off to the camping section of a nearby garden centre to purchase a portable gas ring powered by bottled butane gas, so that I could make a warm drink. Power is wonderful when you have it and managing without it is a feat. I could only write this is my head until the power was back on again.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

The wrong week

Originally posted February 27, 2007

For the next few weeks I am working more than usual and I know that I shall find it difficult to post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some of the posts that I wrote before my blog was read.

Last week my husband took the week off work to do some 'serious decorating' - his words not mine. The trouble was it was the wrong week. We have lived in this Victorian cottage for nearly three years and as the third anniversary of our move here looms, on 30 April, I have set that date as a deadline by which the main rooms have to be decorated and carpeted. If the deadline is not met I am getting professionals in to do the decorating. We are currently trying to decorate the main bedroom and the dining room.

We could not do anything with the bedroom because we are waiting for it to be replastered. Initially, we couldn't contact the plasterer and when we eventually did manage to contact him found that he was ill. Consequently, decorating the bedroom is on hold and the fitted bedroom that should have been fitted by now, has had to be postponed.

The dining room we can barely get into, let alone decorate. Three weeks ago, we had a carpet fitted in the living room, after nearly three years of waiting - whilst we used the living room as a store room and all sorts of other things. The carpet which came from a well known (I think) carpet store, has a mark in front of the fireplace and several other faults. So the furniture from the living room is in the dining room whilst we wait for an independent carpet inspector to examine the carpet.

The inside of the cottage is like an obstacle course. It is actually two cottages knocked into one but at the moment it feels more like one cottage knocked into two, with the furniture from the rooms that are supposedly being decorated in the rooms that aren't being decorated. Instead of decorating we spent the week cutting up the tree, which the recent gales had blown on to my greenhouse, into fire wood.

This week my husband is back at work, away from home in his air-conditioned office, leaving me to juggle workmen and a part time job.